Written by Alexis Earp and Kate Simcoe
During the 2020 – 2021 school year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced districts across the country to create new schedules in order to comply with social distancing protocols. Because of a lack of preparedness for a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, Massachusetts state educators recently developed an improved schedule for a “normal” school year. This 9th schedule implements further safety measures and other practices that will remain part of the new normal after the pandemic.
Due to widespread WiFi failures, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will limit the number of devices connected to the internet in every school district. Teachers who have not reserved slots in advance will be issued slate tablets and chalk. Although this system might seem impractical, it will reduce the strain on school WiFi should students need to transition to remote learning.
Although by fall 2021 more people will have been vaccinated, as of right now, the vaccine is only approved for teenagers and adults over age 16. Since not all Massachusetts high school students are eligible, DESE will require students and staff to follow stricter safety protocols to protect everyone from COVID-19. All students and teachers must wear a face shield to protect themselves and others from viral and bacterial infections. These face shields will attach to customizable “helicopter” hats, with three feet long sticks on each side to enforce social distancing. While these safety measures are being implemented because of COVID-19, they will also set memorable pandemic fashion trends forever documented in future MHS yearbooks.
In addition to being prepared to combat viruses, DESE also wants to prepare students for future crises. The COVID-19 pandemic showed that problems can arise quickly, and society will not always be prepared to handle them. Therefore, DESE will be implementing an experimental “Z Block” for high school students, who make up “Generation Z”. Z Block will be an emergency preparedness class that students must take in order to practice responses to large scale crises, such as the imminent return of the dinosaurs, the zombie apocalypse, or an alien invasion. In addition to learning appropriate responses to hypothetical emergency situations, students will practice reacting to important information during a short time period. Z Block will not fit into the traditional high school schedule. It will occur four times a week as a remote class. Students will receive a notice two hours before each Z Block class starts. This could be at any time. If students are asleep, they will be woken by their school-issued, irremovable ID band. This device will emit periodic, low-voltage electric shocks until the student has reported to MHS. The unpredictable schedule for this course will allow students to experience handling real life situations that don’t adhere to a traditional schedule. Although students will need time to adjust to the unorthodox structure of this course, they will learn invaluable emergency preparedness skills that will prove useful in our age of clone armies and drone warfare.
For many, the goal since the beginning of the pandemic has been to return to normal. DESE’s proposed schedule for 2021 will allow students to return to a mostly normal school schedule while still keeping them safe from COVID-19 and other viruses, as well as preparing them for future emergencies. Whether the next year brings fire-breathing porcupines, phones that transmit viruses to users, or malicious sentient mangoes, Massachusetts students will be prepared to take these crises in stride and pave the way to a safer and brighter future.